About 43.5 million adults are unpaid family caregivers. Although the average time spent on caregiving is 24 hours per week—the equivalent of a part-time job—for about a quarter of caregivers, caregiving is a full-time job that demands 40 or more hours per week. Family caregiving can be both rewarding and challenging, and people who support and love caregivers must make space for both emotions. Researchers are increasingly interested in caregivers' contributions to society and the effect caregiving has on their health. Here’s some recent caregiving news you might have missed.
Exercise remains one of the best things anyone can do for their health. It supports the immune system, improves mental health, and lowers the risk of diseases such as coronary artery disease and diabetes. New research suggests exercise is critical for caregiver health. Researchers followed family caregivers who exercised at least three times a week for six months and found that exercise lowered stress. Even more interesting, it triggered genetic changes; people who exercised experienced changes in a section of their chromosomes linked to cellular aging. So exercise might even slow the aging process in caregivers.
Some caregivers struggle with finding time to exercise, especially when they must manage a loved one’s medication. These medication management tips can help you find more time in your day.
Stories about caregiving often talk about shared affection, wisdom being passed down to younger generations, and the rewards of improving someone else’s life. But caregiving often exacts a hefty economic toll. Many caregivers are mid-career professionals who must take time off of work at critical career junctures. Others sacrifice degrees, promotions, and other career builders to care for a loved one. Even when caregivers are paid through state programs for their work, they can still suffer significant financial losses.
The holidays can be exhausting for caregivers, triggering memories of lost traditions and easier times. Some caregivers also face stress from visiting family and friends who just don’t understand the challenges of caring for another person. Here are five ways that loved ones can support a family caregiver this holiday season.
Dementia is common, affecting about 9 percent of elders. However, this means that the overwhelming majority of seniors do not have dementia. Some caregivers are quick to leap to conclusions, assuming that any changes in a person’s physical or cognitive health can signal dementia. This assumption relies on ageist stereotypes and may be harmful to seniors. Although it’s important to monitor loved ones for signs of cognitive decline, it’s equally important to treat seniors as autonomous, thoughtful humans who are likely to remain competent and thoughtful well into old age.
Most caregivers are doggedly committed to ensuring their loved ones remain healthy and happy as long as possible. This commitment often comes at the expense of the caregiver’s health. According to a new survey of caregivers, nearly 40 percent of caregivers themselves have a serious medical condition. A quarter also report that it’s hard to remain on top of their own health. Even among caregivers with chronic health conditions, 40 percent report neglecting their own health to care for loved ones.
The holidays are a great time to give a caregiver a break. If someone you love is providing care for a loved one this holiday season, here are five ways to give them a break to focus on their own health.
Apathy is not a part of normal aging. Seniors who suddenly seem apathetic may have depression. This apathy could also be a warning sign of dementia, according to new research. Over the course of reviewing 16 previous studies, researchers from the Netherlands found that 20 percent of people who visit memory clinics seem apathetic.For some seniors, apathy is a product of boredom and disconnection. A host of tech devices can help seniors feel more enriched and connected. Learn about the best options here.